Why Vegan Education Has Never Been More Important

eiffel-tower-1062498_1280

So, once again, I am writing about a new traumatic event. I once before talked about the events with Charlie Hebdo from January 7 in a previous blog and that was tough enough. First I must say that I was very moved by all the friends from abroad who reached out to me privately to make sure I was ok. And I was very touched by comments worlwide. Even Stephen Colbert stopped being funny and showed clear emotions of shock.

In my previous blog about Charlie, I quoted Joe Randazzo of the Onion:

This will be framed by many as the latest salvo in an ongoing war between the West and Islam, when what this really amounts to is the slaughter of innocent people. These murderers don’t represent anyone but themselves, their own twisted view of reality. They don’t stand for an entire religion anymore than the Westboro Baptist Church stands for an entire religion or the Ku Klux Klan stands for an entire race.”

On Friday November 13 (and they say Friday the 13th is bad luck – sic), the whole world was mourning the attacks in Paris (but also in Turkey and Beirut just the day before!). I saw things happening live on my television set, watching people trying to escape from the Bataclan hostage massacre and imagining the same with animals in slaughterhouses. And just like with Charlie Hebdo, not just humans died, a dog also lost her life.

12274562_1521357421518828_9152998172901703583_n
« I am Dog » RIP Diesel

The irony of it was that the day the attacks happened, part 1 of my interview with Vegan Nation was broadcasted and I was talking about our speciesist society and the importance of the vegan revolution. I had done the interview for both parts of the interview (Nov 13 and Nov 20) on the same day.

On November 15, I wrote this Facebook status: « Is it any wonder that, in a patriarchal world where men only believe in the might makes right mentality and deny Sophia (to use the term from Will Tuttle), that wars and terrorism happen? As long as Sophia is repressed, this will continue… »

A few days after the attack, I received a phone call from Marlene at Vegan Nation asking me to redo some of part II of the interview in the context of the Paris attacks and linking it to the cause of turkeys on Thanksgiving. I was caught by surprise, still in shock and my emotions clearly were transparent in the interview. But my mind was also clear about the meaning of this all.

There is a disease in our imperialist cultures whose name is capitalism (from the latin Capita for « head » of animals), a patriarchal mindset which seeks to impose our views by bombing and invading other countries. This alone radicalizes people (mostly men again who themselves oppress women in their countries) and makes them hate us. Is this surprising? Unlike the animals we slaughter or just exploit, they do retaliate and learn to hate. Animals generally don’t. (If you know of a cow coming at you with a Kalachnikov, please let me know).

I think Thom Hartmann (who is now vegan apparently and one of my all time favorite journalist) said it best on his show: « Western Militarists are Doing Exactly what ISIS Wants » and he continues with « France is Giving the Terrorists Exactly what they Want! » comparing it to W’s response after 9/11.

The award winning independent journalist (and also a vegan favorite of mine) Chris Hedges talks about what would happen of the United States if this was to occur:

« Another jihadi terrorist attack in the United States will extinguish what remains of our anemic and largely dysfunctional democracy. Fear will be even more fervently stoked and manipulated by the state. The remnants of our civil liberties will be abolished. Groups that defy the corporate state—Black Lives Matter, climate change activists and anti-capitalists—will be ruthlessly targeted for elimination as the nation is swept into the Manichean world of us-and-them, traitors versus patriots. Culture will be reduced to sentimental doggerel and patriotic kitsch. Violence will be sanctified, in Hollywood and the media, as a purifying agent. Any criticism of the crusade or those leading it will be heresy. The police and the military will be deified. Nationalism, which at its core is about self-exaltation and racism, will distort our perception of reality. We will gather like frightened children around the flag. We will sing the national anthem in unison. We will kneel before the state and the organs of internal security. We will beg our masters to save us. We will be paralyzed by the psychosis of permanent war. »

And what he says is exactly true about France as well as I have already seen and predicted. Teachers are being silenced, environmental and animal rights activists can’t be on the streets to defend their causes. But strangely enough, hunters and animal exploiters, as well as music venues etc… are allowed to continue business as usual. Coincidence? I think not. A state of emergency gives the government what it wants and more…

A journalist from Charlie Hebdo also said: « Radical imams should be kicked off from France, it’s the least we can do. They have nothing to do in France. They treat France as they treat women. »

Although it’s a statement I can agree with, it doesn’t solve the problem of a society that is inherently speciesist and sexist. The root of the problem, our exploitation of (mostly) female animals, which leads to the exploitation of women and this growing monster that is Daesh (or ISIS), with their institutionalized rape of women (they are sex slaves in their views) and our ever increasing military complex is never addressed. They enslave women as we all enslave female animals and rape them. How can we expect to have peace on Earth when billions of sentient beings are raped, tortured, mutilated and slaughtered EVERY SECOND!

I couldn’t help seeing the cruel irony of the situation in Paris. One minute, people were just drinking, eating animal corpses (I doubt many were vegetarian, let alone vegans), having fun with their lives, the next they were slaughtered by insane people.

But we created all this. We always reap what we sow. When you have disenfranchised communities (economically) and countries invaded with displaces millions of people as we see in the migrant crisis in Europe, is it any wonder that we sooner or later, violence to them brings us violence at home?

« We have to ask ourselves questions about the model of integration and education. It would be simpler to accept if the attacks were coming from people outside of the country. Before they were jihadists, they were French kids. The response has to be from the educational and social perspective. And that’s a lot more difficult than security. » ~ Louis Bernard

« Today, many Muslims still live in shoddy public housing on fringe areas of cities and feel disenfranchised. They face higher unemployment rates and uncertainty about their futures. About 19% of immigrants in France, all nationalities included, were unemployed in 2014 compared with 9% of French citizens, according to statistics agency INSEE. » Qz.com

In the same manner, we kill billions of sentient beings just for food alone each year and, as Will Tuttle would say, it retaliates against us with increased social violence, social problems like depression, mental diseases, health issues, etc…

The attacks in Paris, Turkey and Beirut are no different from the violence we commit towards other animals and other humans every second of the day. When you open your television set and see only speciesist commercials, movies and « infotainment », you can’t expect to have a just society in which people are caring, socially responsible and humane. We are taught the exact opposite from the day we are born.

War is not the answer. It never was. But it’s an excuse for the « disaster capitalism » Naomi Klein often talks about in her book The Shock Doctrine. It allows the powers that be to create chaos (or profit from chaos) to impose an agenda. President Hollande’s speech after the attacks reminded me shockingly of President Bush’s speech before the invasion of Iraq. The similitude was scary. And the propaganda machine is en route, the repression of peaceful social activism is also underway. Many cities have banned gatherings whether for peaceful protests or otherwise. And now, our president even wants to violate human rights. Having lived through 9/11 and after while in the United States and the consequences on civil liberties, I have enough objectivity (unlike most French and Americans then) to see what is happening under our noses.

« An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. » right?

We need more than ever to have vegan communities which truly value compassion, kindness, sharing, helping others, and of course respecting other animals in order to counter the violence that is created in the world. Without this benevolent vegan revolution, the world of humans will self-destruct. I don’t think this would be a bad thing for the Earth and the other sentient beings.

As Captain Paul Watson once said to a journalist on Fox News (or as I call it « Fix News » to quote Thom Hartmann): « Worms are more important than human beings. They don’t need us, we need them; bees don’t need us, we need them. » Humans are not essential to the planet at all. They behave like viruses. And viruses have to be eventually destroyed.

If we want to survive as a species (do we actually want it?), vegan education is the key to our survival and the survival of all that lives. We can only fight hate with love, not with more hate that fuels insanity. We can only fight poverty, hunger, climate change, animal exploitation with a benevolent, kind vegan revolution in which all of us are united and kick our damn egos to the side.

As the excellent blog ActiveVeganDotorg rightly pointed out recently, we are all « Jehadi Johns » unless we truly act on the real meaning of veganism and spread non-violent education.

« When we start to consider terrorism from a species equality level and point of view, there really is no difference when butchering a human as there is to butchering a nonhuman – apart from law. The unethical act of it is just the same. It is only that the law supports human lives as by far more relevance to nonhuman lives and effectively of higher value in terms of life. Nonhumans are viewed as mere things, chatel property. objects,  that influences the shock factor in terms of terrorism. […] All of these people, these so called ‘terrorists’ who take lives for their own apparent reason, simply have no moral concern for life. They do not believe that what they are doing is morally wrong –  they simply see things differently to the average person who believes in nonviolence. They justify their violent action in the name of what they believe to be right. They lack nonviolent education, respect for life, for those who matter, for those who want to live. »~ Activevegandotorg

We need to,  as Will Tuttle pointed out, to truly embrace « Deep Veganism » and stop fighting among each other for shallow reasons. As long as we continue to fight among activists over silly things even though we agree on the essential, violence wins, non-human and human animals as well as the Earth lose.

As Will beautifully said: « Deep veganism arises in us as a heart-felt aspiration to embody loving kindness in all of our relations with others, both human and nonhuman. It emerges as a sense of vast inclusivity. We realize that people who are not yet vegan have been wounded by pervasive cultural programming that has in many ways shut down their natural wisdom and compassion from birth. We see that we have all be wounded by the meat rituals and our culture’s food program that desensitizes us and breeds exclusivism, elitism, disconnectedness, commodification, competition, and self-centeredness. Deep compassion begins to grow in our hearts for all living beings and our interconnected suffering. We begin to yearn more than anything to embody the liberating truth-essence of veganism in every thought, word, and action. »

If Vegans don’t learn to get passed their imperfect egos and anger and educate others about a non-violent society FOR ALL (including among themselves), no one else ever will.

I will end on this beautiful quote from Chris Hedges’ article on TruthDig:

« Violence generates counterviolence. The cycle does not stop until the killing stops. All that makes us human—love, empathy, tenderness and kindness—is dismissed in wartime as useless and weak. We revel in a demented hypermasculinity. We lose the capacity to feel and understand. We pity only our own. We too celebrate our glorified martyrs. We endow our sanctified dead with the lofty virtues and goodness that define our national myth, ignoring our complicity in perpetuating the ceaseless cycle of death. »

 

vegan nation interview poster

 

Photos:

  • Eiffel Tower – curtosy http://www.pixabay.com  Free photos.
  • Poster Vegan Nation made by my friend Ladan V. Cheibani

 

Sources:

 

© Copyright November 2015 – Vegan Empowerment/Veronique Perrot – All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or publication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

The welfarist vs. abolitionist debate is a waste of time

IMG_0404
March Against Speciesism – Geneva 2015

“One of the statements that depresses me most is when vegans who were long-time vegetarians say, “I just didn’t know.” As animal liberationists, it is our duty to make sure people know. It is our duty to speak the truth, confront injustice, [and] creatively work together to end the animal holocaust. Let’s bring the focus back to where it needs to be, on the animals.”
~ Gary Smith (June 23, 2012)

I am an abolitionist and yet I do what some would call “welfarist” campaigns or single issue campaigns like the anti-fur, anti-foie gras, anti-hunting, anti-bullfighting demos, etc. and of course vegan education. When I was living in the USA, talking pure Veganism was not that easy but at least people knew what the word “vegan” meant there. It’s not the same in France. We have “vegetarian”, « végétalien » (plant-based) and vegan(e) but the latter is still a word which brings wide clueless eyes from most people.

I started as welfarist many years ago, not knowing anything else, then discovered certain authors and became this absolutist who believed that only talking about veganism would create change and that everything else was useless. I still believe it is true with a few people on the street. But the big majority, even with the best arguments, don’t want to hear about pure veganism in the first place.

Coming back to France, I had to come to the realization that vegan education only wasn’t yet possible but that taking any opportunity to bring it into the conversation within the context of a seemingly “welfarist” campaign worked better. In fact, our campaigns are indeed single-issue but you won’t find an activist here who wants bigger cages, or less fur or just no meat. You will find activists who want a total abolition of any animal exploitation. We just try to tap into people’s psyches any way we can to bring them to at least be open to discuss more and go further.

And it works. The association I volunteer for (among others), l’Association Végétarienne de France (The French Vegetarian Association – I hate the name obviously) doesn’t have any vegetarian recipes on its website. It does promote a 100 % plant based diet from a nutritional perspective. This is not an animal rights association in the usual sense (even though it also addresses ethics and the environment and everyone in it is mostly there for ethical reasons), it is more about nutritional educati
on. As a holistic vegan health coach, I found a way to use my learning in order to also bring ethics and environmental issues into the discussion.

The absolutist approach is something I am tired off. It can work on a few people but to say that some single issue campaigns are a waste of time is denying their usefulness when they are done right. From my experience doing many single issue campaigns in France now (and in the US), I found out that it is easier to approach people with one single issue and then engage an intelligent dialogue which brings to the vegan dialogue because I noticed that they can get overwhelmed rapidly and turn away even faster.

As any vegan activist who’s been “on the field” knows, I have found those who don’t want to hear anything and just mock the very idea of being vegan or just anti-speciesist. We’ve all been there. But I found more people being in fact open to discuss veganism, through way of a seemingly single issue campaign, than when I did pure vegan education on the streets.

And believe me, I never thought I would reach this point of view after many years of being convinced by the absolutist argument. The fact is that now, more and more news programs on television discuss the meat issue or even Veganism and vegetarianism in France. The growing vegan movement in France is palpable and we’re riding on a new wave.

What made this change possible? I believe that it is the number of events organized not only around veganism (as L214 or the Association Végétarienne de France and FUDA do) but also all the other campaigns showing the reality of animal agriculture and the (sadly) growing fast food industry (thanks McDonald, KFC and others!). When we show footage of the cruelty of foie gras to some people, I often hear from them that they are going vegetarian or even vegan already. People get it. And it’s not being absolutist which brought them here; it is one thing after another.

Some are touched by the cruelty of foie gras, others by the cruelty of the fur industry. Others are worried about their health or the environment. Whatever made them “tick” and triggered their empathy in the first place and reach new conclusions is something which matters. I don’t know many vegans who went vegan immediately. Most (including myself) did it gradually as they learned more and felt less and less the challenge of changing difficult (and it’s not the easiest thing still in France or even some parts of the USA – not everyone lives in L.A. or New York).

So I am basically tired of the so-called welfarist versus abolitionist arguments. The only welfarists I can’t approve off are those who want to regulate slavery, care only about dogs and cats, not those who use single issue campaigns with an abolitionist goal.

I showed a French news report on the growing vegan trend in France and the fact that L214 is doing “vegan places” all over the country. One person’s response (in a US group) was “pfff L214, they’re just welfarists”. I was thinking: « Can’t you just be glad that veganism is on NATIONAL news and in PRIME TIME and that it is growing? You have to complain about an organization because it doesn’t meet your perfect criteria? » Yes, it’s true that they are partly welfarists in the sense that they want better regulations on certain issues but no other organization here does more to promote Veganism everywhere yet. I don’t and will never agree with the welfarist part but it has the advantage of showing the reality to a blind population. They also do an enormous amount of undercover investigations which just got a slaughterhouse in the south closed down just recently and was seen as a scandal all over French newspapers and Television. Should I therefore push L214 under the bus because they’re not perfect? I might as well push all the sincere activists under the bus because none of us is the “perfect abolitionist” according to some people’s books, which is probably 99% of us.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with the abolitionist theory of anti-speciesism and I agree with most of what abolitionists write. But besides criticizing and trashing others (as some of them who I won’t name do but that all activists I’m sure can name on Facebook), I don’t see much action done based on their approach. However, I see a lot of people who don’t waste their time trashing others and do some great work at educating people any way they are able to because they don’t waste their time arguing with others and actually do something! Usually, they don’t spend much time on Facebook. That is not a coincidence. The loudest critics are the ones doing the least.

None of us are perfect. And frankly, instead of throwing stones at each others, we should start having a good look at ourselves as humans and do some inner work. We are all different; we all came to Veganism in various ways (as I noticed by listening to various interviews on AR Zone over the years as an example). So how can we pretend that one way is better than another? I got people to go vegan by first approaching them about their health, others it was the environment, others yet, it was just an issue like the violence of the fur industry. We don’t know what may make people suddenly re-discover their empathy! All we know is that we want them to get to Veganism and therefore anti-speciesism. And it’s possible any of these factors can do it. I met enough people who proved this rule to me.

However, staying vegan is NOT about diet, is NOT about the environment, it is FIRST about the animals and then everything else.

When we fail is when we don’t teach them the main reason to do it in the end. But let’s open all the doors which can bring them to the vegan conclusion.

As a famous expression says: all paths lead to Rome. So it can be true that all paths can lead to Veganism as well.

IMG_0400
March Against Speciesism – Geneva 2015

Photos: March Against Speciesism – August 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland

© Copyright October 2015 – Vegan Empowerment/Veronique Perrot – All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or publication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Committing Genocide to Celebrate Another Genocide

native-american-391108_1280

I don’t think I’ve ever know a more ridiculous holiday than Thanksgiving in my life either in my country of origin or in the US and Canada (or any countries that I know off).

The American (and Canadian) people sit down at a table with their families to gives thanks for something which is more like a fantasy while stuffing the corpse of a turkey’s behind (and I am being polite). Millions of these poor animals are killed all year long but particularly on this holiday and for most clueless Americans, this symbolizes some form of sick psychosis un-related with the original Thanksgiving.

The most ridiculous part of this sick holiday is probably the « pardon of the turkey » by the president. And what exactly are turkeys guilty of? Wanting to live? I wander if Dennis Kucinich (who was the only vegan in Congress), had he become president, would have refused to participate in this grotesque insult or took it as an opportunity to deliver a message of compassion for the fate of these animals. We will never know because, unfortunately, he was not chosen to run against the Republicans.

But let’s not also forget that it is a total insult to the first people of the Americas: Native Americans & First Nations (as they are called in Canada) who were brutally slaughtered, pillaged, raped as soon as the first white people showed up on the continent they lived on. If the pilgrims were around today, they would be called Jihadists!

So, I want to be thankful for only one thing: the fact that more and more people are aware of the cruel irony of this holiday for both the animals and the people who were massacred.

But I wish one thing: either someone renames this holiday « Honor Native Americans Day (and the turkeys) » or that this ridiculous gluttony be finally abolished as something that should never have been celebrated in the first place.

If you still decide to « celebrate » this lie, please do it the Vegan way and join many vegans in North America who chose to eat WITH the turkeys and not the turkeys themselves and give thanks for being Vegans.

turkey-399304_1280

Photos: Courtesy of http://www.Pixabay.com

© Copyright VeganEmpowerment/Véronique Perrot – Nov 2014 – All Rights Reserved. No republishing allowed without permission – Sharing is encouraged!

VOTE VEGAN!

fruit-428063_1280

There is a huge debate within the Vegan community as to whether it is a good thing to support non-vegan businesses that offer vegan options or not. There are, I believe, two possible situations with this issue, which may appear contradictory. But read on.

As some of you know, I was born in France, then lived in Los Angeles, California for over 17 years and became vegan there. Being vegan in a big city is so easy. You have tons of vegan restaurants, you can easily find whole foods that you can prepare at home etc… What I noticed, however, is this tendency from some vegans to believe that by supporting non-vegan businesses that have one vegan option, they are encouraging them to promote veganism more. I would like to point out a few facts:

  1. If you purchase from a non-vegan company, you will likely buy from a giant corporation who makes millions or billions of dollars which they use to continue to kill more animals. Do they also need money from vegans?
  1. Several people have reported that companies, like Chipotle for instance, have given them « vegan options » which in fact had animal flesh in them. It happened to me as well a few years ago at another non-veg restaurant when I ordered a vegan burrito and got one with chicken in it. So much for your vegan option.
  1. Why is it that the Animal Advocacy Museum in Los Angeles can obtain free food from Veggie Grill or good discounts for large happenings while a big (supposedly vegan) festival like WorldFest hires El Polo Loco, a large animal killing corporation, to feed its volunteers? Why not make a deal with vegan chains like Veggie Grill or Native Foods which truly support veganism and instead settle for an animal killing industry? This still baffles me and I find it very disappointing and a betrayal for the animals we pretend to defend.
  1. If you think your vegan option at Chipotle (or other non-veg place with one « vegan dish ») is vegan, think again. Do you really believe that they cook your food on a separate grill than the one used to grill animal body parts? Your food is certainly contaminated and as I pointed above, the chances that it contains what you don’t want to eat are high.
  1. Vegan businesses are usually owned by small entrepreneurs who want to do the right thing. When I was in Los Angeles, I tried to support the L.A. Vegan Crepe, whose owners are not only ethical vegans but do bunny rescues. In other words, they had no life. I created movie/dinner events there to encourage our community to support them instead of supporting their local Burger King (because it has a vegetarian burger). As vegans, isn’t it the right thing to support our own first when they are the ones struggling the most to do the right thing? Or is it just because some vegans, still conditioned by mainstream non-vegan thinking, choose convenience over doing the right thing?

Now, my opinion on this is finite when it comes to big cities like Los Angeles which have all the vegan convenience we can get. There is no excuse to do otherwise.

The problem is that not everyone lives in Los Angeles. Some of you live in small towns or villages where there is absolutely nothing. But should you support non-vegan businesses?

One approach in this case, is to encourage them to offer what big cities have: more vegan choice. I also wish there were more courageous entrepreneurs in these places who tried to bring the vegan message to their local places by creating 100% vegan businesses. But we have an economic crises all over the world and I understand that starting a vegan business is extremely hard. That is why the L.A. Vegan Crepe (and a few others) eventually closed down, not just for lack of support from vegans themselves but because it was a very hard and brave thing to do in the first place.

The second approach is to start your own whole foods vegan delivery system and stop relying on your local businesses to provide for you. You can also find a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in the US which supports local small farmers (which is better than a giant corporation). In Europe, we have tons of farmers’ markets with local produce.

Get your butt in the kitchen! Cooking is an art that is getting lost and a lot of vegans choose the junk food route (which is not healthy in the long term) instead of reconnecting with their food. You can find vegan cookbooks everywhere to help you. Even in small towns, there is always a veg section in bookstores and at least one vegan cookbook. If I can find them in a small pro-bullfighting French city like Nimes (France), you definitely can!

When I moved to France in August, I discovered there were nearly no vegan products on the market unless I lived in Paris (or another big city), which has several vegan restaurants. (I am not counting the abundance of fruits, vegetables, and so on) but I also realized that I needed to encourage local businesses (not big corporations) to see the bigger picture and see what their advantages were at increasing or changing their businesses to more veg-friendly outlooks.

They are very aware of the millions of tourists visiting France each year. Paris is the most visited city in the world for instance. Nimes is famous for its Roman buildings and therefore attracts a lot of tourists from England and Germany (which we know have more vegetarians and vegans).

In France, a lot of local small businesses still flourish and I am not talking about giving money to giant corporations (aka giant killing machines). I therefore connected with Happy Cow and started visiting my local businesses to show them that there is worldwide demand for veganism/vegetarianism and I found out that they were in fact excited to be included and offer a choice to vegan customers. The more we encourage them, the more some of them and new ones may in fact turn to a 100% vegan way of living.

That is the situation for small places where there are no vegan restaurants or businesses easy to find.

How about voting at the booth for the people who really matter. Dennis Kucinich (who is known as the only – now former – vegan congressman) had a bid for being chosen as the candidate for the democratic party in the 2004 election. But what did vegans (and others) do? Instead of voting with their conscience (and it doesn’t have to be Kucinich, it can be anyone you really feel strongly about), they voted for the lesser of two evils as usual (or as Michael Moore, who is becoming more vegan each day according to Victoria Moran, once said « the evil of two lessers »).

According to this article on the Raw Food World website (16 Millions Vegans and Vegetarians in the USA), we have 16 millions vegans and vegetarians in the USA. If these 16 millions voted with their conscience now instead for settling down for the status quo, we could have sent a strong message to the fascists who control us all.

Think about it and stop settling down for that lesser of two evils and actually join together to make your statement. The worse scenario that can happen is that the majority will still vote for the idiots but that more people who vote for the alternative will be heard.

In France, when we are not happy with something, we strike. Our government is scared of us. In America, people are scared of the government (to quote what an American woman living in Paris said in the movie Sicko by Michael Moore).

Isn’t it time that we really vote the right way? Let’s vote with our wallets first. That is our biggest power. There are places where I can find vegan products and I found them and that is my vote. When I was in Los Angeles, I voted by supporting vegan only businesses because they need our help to stay, non only in business, but to inspire others to do the same. In small places, it is about creating more awareness so the options increase and it eventually inspires some people to go all the way.

The choice is yours today. Make it the right one.

Picture: courtesy www.Pixabay.com

© Copyright VeganEmpowerment/Veronique Perrot – November 2014 – No republishing allowed unless permitted. Sharing is encouraged.

The View from Within: Becoming a Witness

Image

It is not an easy thing to look the truth in the eye even when already informed. That is what my last weekend of activism was about. I looked into the eyes of individual cows at a feedlot and saw fear and curiosity. I looked into the eye of a dead and abandoned calf and saw terror and pain. I looked into the eyes of the beings we honored for the National Animal Rights Day and saw their distress literally frozen forever.

I will never look at them the same way. I have been vegan for years and never faced their pain so virally until now. It was palpable, it was furious and it was also brutal.

I find myself at this corner in my life where major decisions have to be made. I opened Pandora’s box years ago and realized that there was no turning back. After this weekend, whatever doubts I ever had, went through the window. It is one thing to sign petitions, go to protests, but it is another entirely to be a witness and feel and see someone else’s pain.

I have been taking photos since I got my first camera about 20 years ago. As a teenager, I was inspired by a photo-journalist who visited my school. His love of his profession was at the time what pushed me to learn the craft. But I never excelled or succeeded in that direction. I consider myself a decent photographer but not an artist. But it’s ok. I love doing it anyway and I would rather tell the truth with pictures than trying to imitate some of my great friends or other great photo artists out there. That is not what I’m about.

I can still see myself walking the dirt road in the feedlot with many cows looking at me and my two friends, curious about our presence and maybe hopeful that something is being done to help them? I would like to believe that. I took many pictures that day, I tried to really see each individual and capture her face, her emotions, her life in the disgusting gulag she is interned in. I don’t know if I succeeded but I do hope that the moments captured will serve to liberate her sisters and her children.

Then we happened on the body of this baby. His tortured corpse and face displaying horror will forever stay with me, not just on pictures but in my memory. What happened to him or her? And why? I know the answer of course but it is more of a universal « why » than a purely analytical why. What has she/he done to deserve this? He/she was not even worth a proper burial.

I kept taking pictures, feeling transfixed by the sight, with the need to document, report, bring the truth to others. Wake up! Don’t you see what your actions are doing to them?

I can still remember the smell of the place and all the flies all around us. People can actually « work » in places like these? I wonder what these cows feel daily about being here. I can only know what I would feel.

We can never know how someone else really feels unless we feel it ourselves. No matter what happened last weekend, that will not change. I am not a cow, a sheep, a rat, a cat… But I am human and I have my compassion and heart open to their pain. That will not change because of my so-called human privilege.

The most important thing any of us can do is to set aside our damn egos and truly walk our talk of compassion and inclusiveness. We walk a dangerous path when we ignore our deeply ingrained selfishness and pride. Our animal brothers and sisters don’t pretend to be anything but themselves and we make them pay by torturing them. But we could also reward them by caring for them instead provided we truly change ourselves. I have met vegans/animal rights activists who are building up their egos as a bodybuilder builds his muscles. But I’m also glad that the majority of them do really care and do whatever it takes to wake up minds around them.

Changing hearts and minds is the most difficult task or this generation. Our parents couldn’t do it because it was not the right time. Our children may do it, but it might be too late. If there is to be a consciousness shift, it has to be now, not later. The animals can’t wait any longer and the Earth is running out of time completely.

Whether you carry a sign or sneak into slaughterhouses or feedlots, you must document the truth so that no-one can dispute it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel talented enough or courageous enough. We never know what courage we have until we take risks. That is the lesson I’ve learned last weekend when I brought back pictures of slavery.

Let’s not forget that, for a lot of people, other animals are still very much invisible and their pain even more so. That is why, in all of history, paintings, then photos have been powerful testimonies to reveal what is hidden.

And frankly, let me ask you this: what have you got to lose?

 

« Every successful social-change movement has involved a multiplicity of people using a multiplicity of tactics to approach a problem from a multiplicity of angles. Some people push against the bad things that need to be changed while others pull for the good alternatives. Some people work to undermine destructive systems from within while others are knocking down the walls from without. We all need to recognize that and find our place within a multifaceted struggle, being sure to be generous and appreciative of those who are working toward the same goal using different tactics. »

~ Patrice Jones

 

Pictures of NARD in San Francisco : https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152261526378138.1073741854.754328137&type=1&l=42e554a0f7

 

Pictures of feedlots: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152261728828138.1073741856.754328137&type=1&l=cceade59e9

 

Image

 

Photos by Véronique Perrot

© Copyright June 2014 – All Rights Reserved. Printing by Permission Only.

THE VARIOUS STAGES OF TRUE VEGANISM: From Anger to Making Peace

Before I go through these stages, I want to make sure that the definition of Veganism is clear as based on the creator of the word, Donald Watson:

 

“We can see quite plainly that our present civilization is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilizations were built on the exploitation of slaves, and we believe the spiritual destiny of man is such that in time he will view with abhorrence the idea that men once fed on the products of animals’ bodies. »

 “[Veganism is] A way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life. It applies to the practice of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, animal milk and its derivatives, and encourages the use of alternatives for all commodities derived wholly or in part from animals.”

 

There is a strong distinction between adopting a plant based diet and being Vegan, as we can see from the words of Donald Watson above. I am always astonished that people who adopt a plant based diet for health reasons call themselves Vegans. The word is so watered down nowadays that I think it is time for Vegans to defend the meaning of the word.

I have nothing against people who want to improve their health. After all, that is how I help people every day through my health coaching work. However, this, to me is just a tool to get them to become Vegans. As happy as I am that President Clinton has gone on a plant based diet, I can’t tell if he has shifted to Veganism for ethical reasons at all. We have also seen examples of so-called Vegans going back to their old omnivorous ways once they thought it “didn’t work” and realized that these people adopted a plant-based diet but were never Vegans (as we understand it to be, for the animals) in the first place. Being Vegan is about others, not ourselves.

People can get to Veganism through what I call “back doors”: environmental reasons and health reasons. Or through “the front door”: Ethical. That was my case. Then I discovered the health and environmental benefits were a welcome bonus. I will focus only on those who come through the front door directly into Veganism. There are various stages of how we evolve as Vegans. Your experience may be different than most but you will likely find something to relate with.

 

Stage 1: the “omg” stage.

You were exposed to the cruelty of the meat industry and decided that you couldn’t participate in it. Therefore you decided to go Vegan on the spot or Vegetarian because you most likely don’t know about the egg and dairy industries at this point. Perhaps you have not met a Vegan who told you the whole truth and you are left in limbo trying to figure out what to do. That is a likely scenario if you became concerned about animals but knew no one else who could help. This is still common for a lot of people new to animal rights. And that is why we so need Vegan education above all else.

 

Stage 2: “I wish I could make them…”

If you have not gone Vegan yet, you have now because you finally learned about the cruelty of dairy and how babies are torn from their mothers etc… If you were already Vegan in the first stage, you probably got the information faster. You now feel a lot of anger. The first reason for your anger is that you have been part of all this cruelty and second, you have become sensitized to the cruelty around you and it is painful, as one would expect. The blinders are off, what can you do? You feel like yelling at your best friend because she/he “doesn’t get it”! Your family drives you crazy and frankly, the world is crap. You want to take a bulldozer and destroy the animal abusing industries.

I call this stage the normal anger stage. All of us, as ethical Vegans, have been through that in one way or another. If you have not, you’re made of steel or something.

 

Stage 3: the “I’d rather go naked than…” stage.

You need to do something about it. You just don’t know what. But the anger has to be channeled and transformed into action. You want to join protests hoping that people who hear you will change. So you go to all these protests where activists yell at the animal abusers and shout slogans “what do you want? Animal liberation”, “when do you want it? Now!” And so on…

You’re in that stage where you feel if you go out there and participate in this, people will actually change or at least you will feel better because you are “doing something”. There is truth in both. Some people may actually hear the message and think about it and you will likely feel better for doing this. You may even get caught up into the sexist campaigns where they tell you if you go naked for the animals, you will make a difference. You just don’t realize yet that there is no difference between commodification of animals, women or black people. You have not made the link between the issues and buy into the welfarist agenda of gratuitous shock demos.

This is also the stage where you either stay stuck in this same paradigm of protest or move on to something else which is true Vegan education.

 

Stage 4: the “Vegan Toastmasters” stage

Welcome to Stage 4; if you actually moved on from stage 3. You have tempered your anger and realized that you are not really making much of a change around you by protesting and screaming at the institutional abusers. However, you start to realize that talking calmly about Veganism by using logical arguments is in fact more effective. A friend may have heard you and thought about what you said. Your parents may start changing. You may also find ways of articulating your Veganism by using peaceful means of reaching people. It could be through writing, tableling, doing Vegan outreach education and talk to people on the street. You try to become a more effective speaker so you can clearly give the message. There are tons of ways we can get people to go Vegan which don’t involve screaming at them for things that we used to do ourselves. That is the stage where you make the essential connection between all the forms of exploitations in the world being the result of a mostly patriarchal culture of domination. You are at the age of reason. At this point, the anger is used to give you strength as effective communicator.

 

Stage 5: The “Mahatma Gandhi” stage

If you’ve come this far, you have now realized that peace on Earth starts with peace in yourselves. Unless you learn to be centered, calm and inspiring, you will never inspire others to be the same, let alone to go Vegan.

“We Must become the Change We Want to See”. Mahatma Gandhi

How do we expect to change others when we don’t change ourselves? It is easy to be angry when we see the violence we are trying to fight against but projecting that violence out there doesn’t change hearts and minds, it closes them. The chances are that you became Vegan because either someone or something triggered your inner compassion, not because someone yelled at you that you were a monster. Let’s extend the same kind regard to others.

 

Excellent interview with Donald Watson by George D Rodger, chair of the Vegan Society, here: http://www.veganmeans.com/vegan_who/Donald_Watson.htm

© Copyright April 2013- All rights reserved – No printing allowed without permission.

HOW WE EXCUSE OUR HABITS

My Flixster account gave me some free movies, among them The Perfect Storm with George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane and other good actors. It is not the kind of movie I had planned on watching but because it was free, I thought, why not. As a Vegan, this movie gave me a good view of our speciesist behavior and how far it can be carried. The movie follows a group of fishermen hell bent on catching as many fishes as they can. They follow George Clooney on his fishing boat to hell in order to make money. 

It is striking that this movie is set in the 1990s during Hurricane Grace (the movie was shot in 2000) and that there was already some environmental awareness. It is supposedly based on a true story. It is obviously another movie with the cliché of man vs. the environment. We get the typical « we will prevail » moto and the hell with the damage we cause. Although, the « heroes » don’t survive it. They spend a good chunk of the movie enjoying their killing spree of big tunas, even showing the animals’ guts being taken out. I don’t think they used props for this as it looked very real to me (someone may correct me if I am wrong). Real animals seem to have died. They show real pleasure in doing so, which demonstrate how indoctrinated they are with their cultural habits. What is even more shocking is how they throw away the « bycatch » to the ocean with obvious disregard. There is not one ounce of regard for the fate of animals in this movie. 

The other really disturbing part of this movie is how they ignore the connection between over-fishing the ocean and the hurricane. The characters spend a great deal of time looking for fish that has obviously already been decimated in various parts of the ocean before they finally find a large group of fish to take. The destruction of the ocean is directly linked to climate change, hence the big hurricane which ironically hits them during the story. 

The final really disturbing part is how they will blindly risk their lives for their greed and obsession with selling the fish corpses they caught. This is the part of the movie where we are supposed to cheer them on as « brave », « courageous », etc… This is the part where I thought, if you get killed, that is your karma for not learning when you should. This movie is interesting in part but also so full of clichés, that it will easily be forgotten by me. Plus, you get an overdose of killing after 5 minutes. I believe the worst line of the movie is Diane Lane screaming to Michael Ironside (as the supposed villain) that « My man is out there risking his life for a bunch of stupid fish ». It is not the fish that is stupid, but humans for allowing themselves to believe that there is no alternative to the old ways. I didn’t find the characters particularly likable during the entire movie even though the actors themselves were very good. They seem to brag a lot (« I will get shit loads of fish ») and care only about the bottom line. I can’t really sympathize with them except on the level that I, as well, used to be part of the system too. I just never directly killed and paid someone else to do it. In a court of law, however, that makes me even more guilty. 


In the world right now, we have millions of people who, each day, excuse their own cultural (and/or religious) habits with « oh, i can’t be Vegan, it is too expensive », or « i tried it but it was too hard », or « there are no Vegan foods where I live », or « I like my meat » or even « God gave us animals to eat them » and other such non sense. As the movie above shows, deeply entrenched habits pervades all aspects of society, wherever you live. It is not simply some groups, it is everyone. But as the movie shows as well, there is a total absence of a higher thinking at work or alternative proposed. The movie is set in America. This is a country which uses up 25% of all resources in the world for just 2% of the world’s population. There ARE alternatives to fishing, like re-learning a trade that doesn’t involve killing and the destruction of the ocean. Yet, society at large (just as implied in this movie too) wants us to believe that some people have no choice. As I pointed out in a previous blog, if you live in a very poor country like the Congo and have nothing else, this is excusable (note that I didn’t say right). But in America, with all the incredible resources that we have, where is the excuse? I see none. We just want to cling to things of the past because it gives us comfort and some security. 

What this country as well as other industrialized countries fail to do (like this movie) is to recognize that we need to have higher thinking. Our egos have to die for the greater good because we simply don’t have time to wait anymore. We are also enslaved to powerful hidden (and not so hidden) interests who want us not to change. These includes banksters (to use a term from Thom Hartmann), corporations and the powerful behind the politicians they buy. There is no such thing as real choice from a societal point of view. The only choice we have is to wake up from the sleeping state we have all been put in and reject as much as we can what is being fed to us physically, mentally and spiritually. 

There is a universal constant to the human condition. We hate to change. If we change, it is because we are left with no choice or because pain forces us too. We also have this bad habit of not evolving faster than our technical abilities. We end up with destructive tendencies. The way to evolution is not to live more and more technologically complex lives, it is to relearn simplicity and wisdom. That wisdom has not left us. We simply buried it under tons of ridiculous daily rituals designed to keep us enslaved. 

In many ways, this is not really the fault of the individual that he has so many reasons to resist. None of these reasons are valid but they are all rooted in the same problem: cultural indoctrination. The way to break this is to show them that they have nothing to fear by changing, and everything to gain instead. We all win by going Vegan on this planet. There are no losers. I try to remember that for each issues we face in the world, there is always a minority which creates real changes. It never comes from the masses or the ones at the top. It always comes from a few at the bottom who want to shake the boat. We have to be the shakers, those who shine a bright light to the darkness out there. Because if we don’t, who will?